One of the clearly defined goals of the aged care reforms is for people to remain active participants of their community. There are clearly both social and economic benefits to keeping elders within the social structure of any community. Elders have the time to devote to volunteering, providing childcare assistance and sharing their knowledge and wisdom to younger generations. Additionally, their presence has been shown to temper anti-social behaviour. So yes, I’m sure we all agree, we want to ensure our clients are encouraged to remain an active and vital part of their communities. How can we do this in our role as service providers?

It's important to allow clients to outline their goals and aspirations.

One of the aspects of good care planning is to identify what it is that the client wants to achieve from accessing care support. In the past we may have used a one-size fits all approach to assist with cost efficiencies. We have also tended to focus on what we think is important to the person’s well-being. However, now we are handing the baton back to the client, putting them in control. Under the new model of Consumer Directed Care we need to consider the goals and aspirations of the clients and what they see as ‘living well'.

So, when sitting down with your clients you need to ascertain what is important to them. It may not be a shower every day or being reminded to take their medication – yes that is important, but what else makes life worth living? Let’s have a look at some things that might be important to a client living in a remote community.

Cultural connection: attendance at cultural events such as business, church gatherings or funerals is an important activity in the life of a client who has lived on a remote community. A client may need help to arrange transport or attendance at important cultural events.

Attending the local Art Centre may also be an important cultural connection activity, allowing the person to pass on their stories. We don’t need to create a second art centre at the aged care service – let's support the client in mixing with other artists, if that is their wish.

Fires provide a cultural connection for many elderly on community. They are a reminder of days past but allow them to also cook foods in a traditional way. Assisting clients in accessing firewood may be an important goal for them.

Historical activities: many of the elderly on community have bush tucker and bush medicine collecting or hunting traditions. While in mainstream, we might be happy to play bingo or carpet bowls to keep our minds active and connect with others, elders on community often connect with one another and reminisce while undertaking a supported bush tucker or hunting trip.

Food security: a lack of adequate storage facilities or family dynamics might mean clients view the access to regular meals as an important service. This may mean thinking about how to help the client gain access to more than just the lunch meal delivered by Meals on Wheels.

These are only a few things that I have found to be important to clients when working out bush. We can’t assume that everyone is the same. Take the time to discuss what the client sees as important to them and see if there are ways this can be built into service provision. No longer can we assume the role of the person who knows best.

The client is now in the drivers seat.

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